Facebook go on the SME charm offensive in London

Last week the Facebook Boost Your Business roadshow rolled into London town, looking to inspire SMEs to make greater use of Facebook, Instagram, and course their range of paid advertising products. So, how did they do?

Running a small business myself (and one that provides social media consulting) I was intrigued to see what sort of show the daddy of social networks would put on. I’ve attended many a Facebook event over the years, but they’ve all been targeted at large organisations with big advertising budgets up for grabs. How would an event aimed at more of the “mass market” look?

I was more than pleasantly surprised. In fact, really quite impressed.

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First stop, Instagram display and coffee

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A badly photographed, empty cup of coffee

Tobacco Dock in Wapping was a perfect, airy venue, allowing delegates to wander between different areas and sessions. Arriving spot on 2pm for the afternoon session, there was already something of a queue forming. After a friendly greeting from an army of helpers, I was directed upstairs, to be confronted by a visually striking Instagram display. Of course, not far away was complementary, high quality coffee – now a legal requirement at such events I beleive… (great stuff served up by Pact Coffee in, of course, Instagram branded cups).

Before the main speaking events, we were encouraged to explore an open floor area. It reminded me of a tech conference, but without bored attendants at corporate looking booths, handing out novelty stress balls to delegates who only joined the queue for the “swag”.

Instead there was plenty of space to mingle, room to sit and charge your devices, plus decent refreshments (#win). With batteries in the green and caffeine levels topped up, you could chat to Facebook “experts”, read about getting started with paid ads and watch videos about the different opportunities the platform presents.

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Wireless headsets to watch videos about getting started with Facebook ads

These were all good, but two areas attracted the biggest crowds…

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Free, customised Instagram bags were a hit

At one end of the hall a long queue had formed. If you’d posted a photo to Instagram with the #fbboost tag, you could have it printed on a cloth tote bag. Such was its popularity that people were being turned away to ensure they didn’t miss the main event! (we all love something free, right).

Meanwhile at the other end, delegates were crowding round an interactive demo from Facebook’s Creative Shop. Anyone could have a go at shooting products inside a very simple rig and then manipulating the resulting with apps like Instagram’s Boomerang. I thought this was a great way to show how easy it is to create professional looking outputs with some half decent lighting, a backboard and an iPhone.

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The Creator Studio drew plenty of attention

 

The main speaking events began at 3pm with a keynote, fireside chat (sadly no fire) with MP Liam Byrne and a Q&A with three SMEs.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve worked on and with Facebook for the last 6 years, but I didn’t find the opening addresses that inspiring. The key points and benefits of using Facebook, and particularly targeted paid media, were clearly delivered. But it perhaps felt a little bit corporate and not quite as personal as it could have been. I wasn’t sure it quite hit the mark with the audience.

However, things moved up a gear when Tanya Beckett (BBC presenter) appeared on stage. Although missing a few notes, Tanya commanded the room and ran a great session with Liam Byrne. There was just the right amount of probing, without it becoming a Paxman-esque barrage.

The main-hall event was rounded off with a Q&A to three SME’s making heavy use of Facebook advertising, including Tricia Cusden from Look Fabulous Forever. As is often the case with such events, the Q&A was my favourite bit. The speakers were all very coherent and brought authentic, relatable stories and experiences to the table. Had I been new to Facebook advertising, this would have been a really influential session for me.

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One of three breakout rooms

The final part of the day involved delegates breaking out into three smaller areas to discuss Getting Started, Driving Growth and Introduction to Instagram.

From the people I spoke to, and what I can see on social media, I get the sense that the event lived up to what people would expect from Facebook (in a good way!). All the information was there, but not shoved down your throat. It was accessible and inspiring, but with enough direction to guide you through. Nice job.

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